THERE BE DRAGONS

This week’s LetsBlogOff asks: What is the edge of your world?

As I considered my response, the thought that kept returning, in a nice, thick, menacing brogue was, “Beyond here, there be dragons.”

That’s what lies beyond the horizon, right? Just out of sight, lurking there…waiting…

When I look into that distance and my stomach does a little flip-flop, it’s about one thing. The next 20 years.

Recently, I started thinking about my current position and wondering how much longer I see myself doing what I do. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. I do. I REALLY do. 

BULLETIN: (This is where I assure anyone who reads this and works with me, for me, or employs me that I love my job and have no plans of departing before they drag me out the door kicking and screaming. I am merely exploring the topic at hand. Do not send your resumes.)

I spent most of my life pursuing success. I’m ambitious. And competitive. It’s what I do. I always wanted to be considered the brightest person in the room. Still do. “The problem solver.” “The creative genius.” If that didn’t work, I’d accept “the quickest witted,” or in a pinch, “the most sarcastic.”  I once received a thank you email that said, “It is such a joy to know that any level of sarcasm need never be worried about or ruined with explanation in a dialogue with you!!”

So that’s how I pictured myself for the past 25+ years. Ambitious. Bright. On the road to success. But I look around me these days and there are a lot of very eager, very intelligent and talented people around me.  I am by far the oldest person in my “department.”  I just can’t picture myself working here with all the young’uns in another ten years. (Really, I can’t even see it for another five, but that thought makes me freak out and hyperventilate, so I’ll stick to ten.) 

What would I do after that? It’s REALLY another 20 years or so before retirement should even become an issue. (Not to mention the vast number of years required to financially make retirement a possibility.)

How would I spend that time if not here?

Why am I freaking out about working or NOT working for another 5 years, or 20 years?

What happens after?

Do I do what I always WANTED to at that point?

What DID I always want to do?

(Be Sally Rogers – writer on the Alan Brady Show?)

(Be Erma Bombeck – great American humorist?)

(Be the female Indiana Jones? But with looser fitting clothing. And less boobage.)

How DO I want to spend the next 20 years?

THAT’s the edge of my world, and every day I sail a little closer.

Beyond, there be dragons.

Big, scary, dragons.

To read other takes on today’s topic – click the logo – and enjoy.

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DON’T JUDGE – GRAMMAR PET PEEVES

Today’s LetsBlogOff asks us: What is your grammar pet peeve?

My friends anxiously await this answer, I‘m sure. Hey, being the grammar and spelling police may not always be appreciated, but as far as I’m concerned, it should be counted as a super power.

I have quite a few of these pet peeves, as it turns out. In some cases, things I find unacceptable – or even contemptible, are making their way into common usage. This, in my opinion, is evidence of our society heading straight to hell in a handbasket. I know I should probably worry about bigger things, but let’s face it; Good grammar and proper etiquette are what separate us from the apes. (That 15 foot wall helps, too.)

The use of apostrophes when referring to a decade, such as the 1980’s, causes me pain. Not unbearable pain, but I am definitely uncomfortable. 1980s. There. Better.

I am also a big supporter of the word “handsful” versus handfuls, mothers-in-law versus mother-in-laws, and bucketsful versus bucketfuls.

I get pretty tired of seeing “accept” and “except” used interchangeably.

I cringe when I see professional letters that begin with Dear Sir, instead of Dear Sir:

The use of i.e. (that is) rather than e.g. (for example) drives me insane.

I have also noticed the element “lead” substituting for the verb “led.” The good news? That little error eliminates quite a few resumes in my stack for review.

Cockiness like that leads to karmic retribution like this –

The other day, I was writing and realized I had no idea if I should type the word “past” or “passed.”

Seriously. I decided to change the whole sentence to avoid hurting my brain, which was obviously on vacation.

And for that, I feel ashamed. Kryptonite, indeed.

But I’ll get past it.

Ah ha!

Ah ha?

Damn it.

To read other pet peeves about grammar, click the logo below, and enjoy!

REGRETS, REINCARNATION AND REALITY

Today’s LetsBlogOff topic is: “If I could turn back time.”

I tend to get maudlin when I start thinking along these lines. I start wondering, “What if?”

What if…I had continued working on the ranch in Mt. Pleasant training quarter horses?

What if…I had taken a chance and moved to L.A. or New York?

What if…I had made a million other decisions differently? Are there parallel universes out there in which I am living those other lives? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if after each decision you make, a game show host – let’s say, Monty Hall, pops up and shows you what’s behind Curtain #2 so you could see what WOULD have been? Then you could have instant regret, instead of getting 5 or 10 years down the line before realizing you blew it.

We don’t get to the afterlife and have someone tell us, “Well, you kinda’ wasted that XX years, didn’t you? Why don’t we try again? This time, don’t be such a wuss.” At least, I don’t THINK that’s how it goes. None of my sources say so. Best case scenario is that you come back – but as something else. (Too bad I can’t come back as my own dog, because she lives the life of Riley.)

Tip: If you get there before I do and you’re given the option, ask to be my dog. Two meals a day, any and every cushion in the house at your disposal, and constant scratches. Second best gig? Come back as my friend Max’s dog. Her feet almost never touch the ground and she is allowed to drink from his glass. Including small sips of booze. Actually, coming back as Max’s dog may be better.

Plus, as an added bonus – if you’re a dog – your biggest decision is which spot of grass to pee on, or should you lick… nevermind. I have gotten WAY off track. This is supposed to be about turning back time.

So, if I could turn back time, I would…

…put down that slice of pizza and NEVER, EVER try it. Then I wouldn’t know what I’m missing when I’m NOT eating pizza – which is way more of the time than I would like. Same goes for queso.

…rethink that whole Flashdance wardrobe I had in the early 80s.

…not punch my friend for biting my brother in the back. (She really did jump on his back and bite him when we were about 6 years old.)

No, wait. I think that was a good decision. I’ll keep that one.

I would…

…lift my shirt and show my you-know-whats when I was on stage at the Chili Cook Off in Terlingua (assisting with beer bong duties) and the whole side of the hill was chanting my name. College. What a waste of perfectly good brain cells.

Lastly, I would…

…demand better gifts for Christmas than what I received as a child. (At least the year this photo was taken.) Look at this expression. Then read the top of the box.

Potty People? Really?

Please check out what others would do if they could turn back time by clicking on the LetsBlogOff logo.

2012, WE NEED TO TALK

Every two weeks, another LetsBlogOff topic is introduced and we scamper off to compose our responses. This week the topic is, “What are you looking forward to in 2012?”

First things first.

2011, thank you for the year of recovery. We marked the one year anniversaries of the passing of my father, Bill Rogers, and my friend, Leah Siegel. I appreciate the opportunity to experience the healing process that strengthened other relationships and for the ability to add a little perspective to my life and work. I don’t know that I would have taken the trip to Wales (my first out of the U.S.) if not for the realization that we don’t always have next year or even tomorrow to carry out our plans.

(Thanks, Sandy, for the best trip ever!)

2012 has the potential to deliver big in lots of ways – or to be a complete disaster. We can control our fate to some degree, but some things are outside our power to command. But, hey, a girl can try, right?

So listen up 2012. Here’s what I need you to do for me.

I will be needing a complete and total cure; a clean bill of health – for a child I know. I can’t go into more detail, as the situation is still developing, and it’s not my place to do anything but put the universe on notice. I just know this: It needs to be fixed. Universe – Pick on somebody your own size. Or I will cut you.

Employment. For my husband. It’s been a difficult few years for him in IT/Channel sales, and it’s time to turn things around. Really. He needs to get out of the house. The dog has gotten way too attached to him. And too spoiled. Observe.

Otherwise, 2012, I expect the same thing from you that I do from myself. I am looking forward to new opportunities, a little rejuvenated attitude and more than a small boost of energy.

I plan to continue this blog, which will be a year old in May. It has been fun and therapeutic, and has introduced me to some wonderful people and talented writers. Who knew complete strangers could be so supportive?

There’s also a possible trip to France in 2012 which should rival my Welsh adventures. I look forward to seeing my friends and family more often, and to the complete recovery of my mother’s pelvis. (That sounds as if she lost her pelvis, rather than broke it, doesn’t it?)

I also look forward to never discussing my mother’s pelvis in public again; as I am sure, does she. (It’s healing nicely, by the way.)

Okay, apparently my obsessiveness and paranoia is going to continue in 2012, because now that I am thinking about the trip to France, I look forward to someone loaning me Rosetta Stone – French. Hint-hint.

I think I may be confusing 2012 with Santa Claus.

Au revoir, 2011. Bring it on, 2012.

What is everyone else expecting from 2012? Read on.

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THANKSGIVING RESERVATIONS

Today’s LetsBlogOff topic is about Thanksgiving and food. 

I was having a really hard time coming up with anything particularly unique about our Thanksgiving, until last night, when this year’s got canceled.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic. Actually, it’s only canceled for my mother, who fell and broke her pelvis during game 6 of the World Series. I know it was Game 6 because having lived almost my whole life in Dallas, with a baseball team that was a major joke for years, Game 6 nearly killed me. I also know that when I got the call from my stepfather at the hospital, part of me was really depressed that I was going to have to head to the emergency room and miss the end of the game. (I know. I know. I’m ashamed and going to hell. I know.)

However, as it turned out, we were told NOT to come to the hospital. I talked to her on the phone briefly as the sedation was kicking in and got to stay home to watch the end of the game. And that’s when God smited me for my insensitivity by making it impossible for the Rangers to get ONE OUT. ONE LOUSY OUT… 

 

Sorry. Back to Thanksgiving. We don’t do anything terribly exciting. No cooking all night. No days and days of baking. We used to go to Grandmother’s, (who probably DID cook all night) but once she sold the house, the gathering became more of a moveable feast  – every year at someone else’s home.  The most memorable thing about Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s was not the food so much – though the dressing was AMAZING, but the fact that she jumped up from the table to run into the kitchen for some forgotten item so often we actually videotaped her end of the table one year so we could show her what she was doing.  I don’t know what on earth was so important in the kitchen that kept her popping up and down like a crazed jack-in-the-box, unless it was shots of vodka.   – Which explains why the rolls always burned. And my predilection for martinis.

When my mother married my stepfather a new tradition was created. I call it, “Thanks for giving me a stepfather who knows how to make a reservation.” Each year we eat Thanksgiving “dinner” at a restaurant. For years it was Les Saisons, then they moved or went out of business. (And yes, the French Thanksgiving theme was a little odd.) Then we tried some other location, and eventually settled on the country club.

Let me just say, Thanksgiving at the country club is a glorious experience. The turkey is stacked neatly on a cushion of cornbread dressing, the squash casserole is to die for, and there are cocktails. Shrimp cocktails, crab claws, smoked salmon, oysters. Champagne, Bloody Marys, wine. The only strenuous thing you have to do is wind your way around the buffet tables with a plate laden with 10 lbs. of yummy goodness.

Anyway, up until last night, Mom kept insisting she was going to be able to attend this three hour food fest, somehow ignoring that broken pelvis / sitting situation. The pain medications must not be keeping her in La La Land anymore because she announced she would NOT be attending our annual festivities. Instead, she proposed that we all go to the club without her, stuff ourselves (or as Granio would say, “Have sufficient,”) and return to the house with a “to go” selection of buffet items.

I was hesitant at first to accept this proposition, but it seemed to be what she wanted, so I agreed. (Part of me thought it could be a trap. People on pain medication can be crafty.) But so far, no repercussions. It looks like Thursday will indeed be a Thanksgiving without Mom. At least temporarily. And for that reason alone, it will be memorable, if a bit melancholy. (Yet still delicious.)

Wait a minute. I just had a horrible thought. Please tell me I wasn’t supposed to volunteer to keep her company while everyone ELSE goes to the club. 

Uh oh.

To see what others in the #LetsBlogOff are sharing about Thanksgiving, click the logo below.

OH, THE DRAMA

Today’s LetsBlogOff topic is: What did you want to be when you grew up?

I can tell you this sincerely. I NEVER said to anyone during my childhood, “What I want to be when I grow up is a marketing person for an architecture and interior design firm,  because there I will find appreciation, encouragement and respect.” I’m still not sure how I got here. But that’s another topic entirely.

Growing up with a father people referred to as a “creative genius” made me want to follow his happy footsteps into the advertising industry, which I did for about 12 years, writing and producing TV and radio commercials. One of my earliest jobs required that I go to an office each day by 9:00 AM to view soap operas. (I’m not kidding. This was a real job.) A TV was perched above my computer screen, and I would watch the CBS soaps with headphones on as two other girls watched ABC and NBC. We would type a summary of each show and hand the copy off to a voice talent before the next show began. The voice talent would record each synopsis, and as this was before everyone had internet, or a DVR, or knew how to reliably set their VHS, people who had missed their soap would call a 900 number and pay 99 cents a minute to hear what happened. Insane, right?

BEST. JOB. EVER.

I watched The Young and the Restless, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and the Bold and the Beautiful. I think I’m missing one… that’s what happens to your brain after subjecting it to that much drama every day.

To earn extra money, I volunteered to do the same thing for Falcon Crest and Dallas in the evening. It was fun to write the copy and insert a little “wink” here and there. It was impossible NOT to get a little tongue-in-cheek about it.

I guess at some point between that early job and the following work on actual commercials I realized what I REALLY wanted to be was a writer. Writing for me is that THING people tell you about. The “Whatever it is you find yourself doing when you’re putting off work is what you should be doing with your life,” thing. It’s like breathing.

Ideally, I would have started this blog years ago when the stepsons were 9 and 12 and providing constant material, but my big plan to be the Erma Bombeck of stepmothers didn’t pan out. Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn’t put the right amount of distance between the observation and the situation to really enjoy it. The ability to laugh came later, with maturity, and the surrender of sanity. So, no book deal, no movie, no big interview on Letterman. Or Oprah.

For now I have to say goodbye to the imaginary vacation house named
“What’s-Your Pointe” I would purchase with the proceeds from my best-selling novel,
“Not Genetically Responsible.” (T-shirts and bumper stickers sold separately.)

Sigh.

But, thanks to the people who read these occasional posts, in a small way, I am what I wanted to be when I grew up.

To see what others in the #LetsBlogOff wanted to be, click the logo. And enjoy!

HOME: WHERE THE BOYS ARE

Today’s LetsBlogOff asks, “What is home?”

Boy, has this changed for me.  “Home” has gone from “BEFORE” – an apartment with me and my dog (late, great, adorable beagle/basset Stella), to “AFTER” – a house with my husband and stepsons. (And the emergency replacement basset, Daisy.)

Home is where:

BEFORE:
I could watch whatever I wanted on TV.

AFTER:
My husband could “accidentally” delete my DVR recordings to make room for every college football game anyone ever even thought about playing.

BEFORE:
My kitchen sink was typically empty and dried with a paper towel to eliminate drips and spots. (Just the way mom used to do it.)

AFTER:
Every time I walk into the kitchen I find another glass, knife, fork, spoon and/or dish in the sink. And a sopping wet sponge. EVERY TIME.  I blame my mother- in-law.  (Sorry, Didi. Love you. But really??) For some reason the boys (and hubby) were never allowed to open the dishwasher and place items inside. When I was first married and tried to “take this hill,” they (the boys) insisted items in the sink made a house look “lived in.” Apparently that is supposed to be a good thing. Whereas my life was spent trying to make a house NOT look lived in, but to look photograph-ready.

BEFORE:
I could feast on a dinner of appetizers every night. Cheese & crackers Monday.  Cold shrimp Tuesday, Taquito Wednesday…  I kept my weight in check and grocery bills down.

AFTER:
Dinner involves an entrée, 2 sides and often the appetizer that used to be my whole meal. Plus, for some reason, boys who ask “What are we having for dinner?” are not happy when the response is, “I’m having an apple and some cheese and crackers. I don’t know what YOU’RE having.”

On the flip side, more often than not, it is hubby who is cooking the too large and complex dinner. I’m just the idiot who eats it and then feels terrible because I just ate a steak and baked potato at 8:45 PM.

I could go on and on… but I won’t. Thank your lucky stars I am at the end of lunchtime again.

But in summary, my answer to the question: “What is home?” is apparently, “Where the boys are.”

Dramatic sigh.

Hogging the TV, making messes that amplify the “lived in” look we were SO not going for, and tempting me with too much food that I normally would not even consider purchasing, much less consuming. (Thank goodness most of the junk food gets eaten before I am even fully aware it’s available.)

It’s also where I am never allowed to take out the trash myself, where the yard work is “men’s business,” and I always have someone who knows the score of the game.  ANY game.  I can also occasionally get a neck rub, an awesome old-fashioned, and a really good steak (medium rare).

 For other takes on the What is home? topic, please click here.

EVERYBODY LOVES A BLOG OFF

Welcome back to the bi-monthly LetsBlogOff. Hopefully, you are reading what others have to say on today’s topic: What is a Blog Off? (Basically, what does it mean to you, why do you participate, what kinds of things do you like blogging about…)

To me, LetsBlogOff is what I forget to do until the deadline is upon me, or over and done. (Much like the warranty on my car, or the 30 day return policy on anything I’ve purchased and decided I hate.)

It’s the lifeline that saves me when I’ve been beating myself up because I have been neglecting to blog and can’t come up with a topic that doesn’t make me yawn.

The Blog Off is a chance to read other bloggers’ work on a similar topic and feel inferior. (While also feeling really impressed by my counterparts who managed to Nail It, Spin It, or Dish It.)

It’s an opportunity to write about things I may not have considered before, like guilty pleasures, traditions, where ideas come from, and to compose my own obituary. (Man, I am so ticked off I missed that one.) Personally, I like the Blog Off topics I use as a spring-board to think of fun things rather than the serious, thought-provoking ones. (Which probably means I need the serious subjects, so I can actually use my brain for the purpose it was intended.)

Mainly, the Blog Off is a chance to do two of my favorite things – reading AND writing. Plus, I get to feel just a little bit closer to some talented individuals out there with similar interests.

Last, but not least, LetsBlogOff is a great way to blow your lunch hour.

Sigh. Back to work.

To read other entries in today’s LetsBlogOff, click the logo:

A THUMBTACK IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

This entry is in response to the unusual topic of today’s Let’s Blog Off, titled: Thumbtacks.

Since I spend a good portion of my life in a cubicle, I try to decorate it as best I can to make it a friendly place – full of hope, serenity and happiness. This would not be feasible without thumbtacks.

And pictures of my niece decorating my space.

Everyone loves children, right?

Okay, maybe some more than others. But children ARE appreciated most often when they are adorable, and in pictures rather than in their full outdoor voice, sticky selves.

My niece, Sarah, is adorable. It’s not debatable. It’s a fact. The trouble with being adored,(as Britney Spears will tell you) is that everyone follows you around with a camera taking your picture all the time. “Sarah, smile!” is more than just a Hall & Oates song. It’s a way of life.

My brother (the lucky dad) is an excellent photographer and is determined to observe and record his daughter’s life in a multitude of still images. I’m not complaining. I LOVE getting new pictures of Sarah. It’s almost like when email first came out and “You’ve Got Mail” would make my heart skip a beat. Now, it’s “You’ve been sent pictures of Sarah on Shutterfly.” I know that within minutes I will have new images to tack in place and amuse me.

This is the first photo I ever displayed of her.

I labeled it “Have a Happy Day!” People would come speak to me and glance over once or twice, then stop in mid-sentence and exclaim happily “Who IS that?!”

I don’t think Sarah has ever been anywhere that wasn’t recorded and sometimes “costumed” for posterity. I like her Halloween poses in particular. This is her annoyed unicorn pose. She gets that expression from me.

I think it’s become a game with her to try to wear her dad down by NOT smiling in the photos. She just looks kind of resigned.

What I should do is create a Sarah “Expression of the Day” and pin it up by my computer so people know my emotional status.

Things are upside down, but I’m dealing with it:

I am ignoring you:

I am having a good time:

Or, we need to have a serious talk:

Most days, however, it would probably look like this:

So, Bill, keep the pictures coming. I don’t know what I’d do without my Wall O’ Sarah.

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READ IT AND WEEP

This #LetsBlogOff topic is really a toughy: What’s the best book you ever read?

I read every night, much to my husband’s frustration. If it’s a particularly good book, I can sit out on the patio all evening and not realize it’s past bedtime. Our main issue regarding my reading habit is that I rarely want to get rid of the books I’ve finished. I just don’t feel at home if I’m not surrounded by bookshelves overflowing with some of my favorite people and places. Some are classics, and some are what could only be referred to as scandalous trash. (Hey, you can’t have steak every meal.  Sometimes you need a little junk food.) My sister-in-law refers to these as H.A.B. books.  (Heaving alabaster breast books.)

But, what is my FAVORITE? It depends on my mood, the time of year, my level of sentimentality – which may or may not be tied to the amount of wine I have consumed that evening – and what is going on in my life at that particular moment.

Generally, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I pick up John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” Maybe it’s the annual reenactment of the nativity scene that makes it feel like a holiday book. And the descriptions! Irving can set a tone with one sentence that thaws my cold, wintry soul.

Each year my husband asks, “Are you reading that AGAIN?” Yes, I’m reading it again.  How can I not?  Listen to this: “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God…”

Now, that’s a great beginning.

In the summer I pick up Pride and Prejudice. (I’m sure that has something to do with Darcy and that dip in the pond.) As the weather begins to turn cooler, it’s Jane Eyre. Right now, I am making the transition from The Help (which will effortlessly fall into the ranks of favorites) to South of Broad, which is making me weep each evening. Translation:  REALLY good.

You know I love a book when I am sitting there spilling tears all over the pages and sniffling a lot. Again, my husband doesn’t completely get this. He also doesn’t get my irresistible urge to read aloud to him when I come across a particularly descriptive/moving/perfect paragraph.

Perhaps I don’t have a favorite book; I have a favorite FEELING about books. It’s when I realize the number of pages remaining is dwindling and I don’t want the book to end. I want to keep hanging out with my “friends.” 

Reading is something I couldn’t live without. Like oxygen. Or pizza. So I will continue to stash books in closets and cabinets, keeping them out of sight of my husband and his strict “no paperback left behind” policy. If only he would concern himself less with my collection of books and more with his collection of socks without mates.

To read more Let’sBlogOff contributors, click HERE.